Belfast Telegraph

I expected Irish Language Act after devolution was restored - Dermot Ahern

Former Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern has said he believed that an Irish Language Act would be created by Stormont politicians after the restoration of devolution in 2007.

Mr Ahern was one of the architects of the St Andrews Agreement which led to political powersharing in Belfast.

He told BBC Northern Ireland's Sunday Politics show: "There was always an understanding that the British government agreed to an inclusion and commitment to an Irish Language Act.

"But the quid pro quo would be that there would be reciprocal attention given to the whole issue of Scots-Irish."

Northern Ireland has been without a first and deputy first minister since January and a functioning executive since March.

The institutions collapsed when late Sinn Fein deputy first minister Martin McGuinness resigned over the DUP's handling of a botched renewable heat scheme.

That rift exposed more deep-seated differences between the two main parties, including over the Irish language.

That issue is now the main obstacle in the way of a return to devolved government.

Sinn Fein insists it will not re-enter a coalition executive in Belfast without an Act to protect Irish speakers.

The DUP would agree to a wider cultural Act, which also incorporates protections for the Ulster Scots culture, but it will not sign off on a free-standing piece of legislation which focuses solely on Irish.

Talks to restore powersharing have rumbled on for months without a breakthrough.

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